Passing on the best of the best in Florence
By Evelyn Hannon, Founder, JourneyWoman
This year I spent one week in Florence all by myself and it was so enjoyable. Much of the reason it was so much fun stemmed from the female-centered tips offered to me from other JourneyWomen both prior to my departure and while I was there. What might have been a good time in a fantastic city became a fantastic time in a fantastic city. Thank you so much, everybody! Now in true JW style I pass these suggestions on to other women heading off to explore Florence…
It was Margaret in Vancouver, Canada who told me that she never fails to stay at the three-star, Hotel Globus when she’s in Florence. After being a guest there, myself, I understand why. To begin, the location is perfect — less than a ten-minute walk from the central train station (if you use a small suitcase on wheels, the walk is perfectly easy), steps away from San Lorenzo Market (fun shopping) and not far from many of the famous churches and museums you will be exploring. In fact, the church bells were my alarm clock, chiming at 7:45AM each morning. A delightful way to start an Italian day.
Hotel Globus is a little gem recently renovated by its young owners, Serena and Michel. Think Milan meets Florence on a minimalist, moderate scale — creams, beiges, browns — pot lighting, chrome trim, orchid plants, bamboo shoots and modern art gracing the walls of the reception area. My single room with tiled bathroom was not large but very workable and stylish. From the in-room safe to heated towel racks and hairdryer to the WebTV that allows a connection to your Hotmail account, all of a travellers needs are easily met.
The breakfast room has the feel of a small cafe offering welcoming service and the kind of breakfast that women will love. Take your pick — croissants, rolls, toast — low-fat yogurts, both fresh and dried fruit, packaged cheese and pates, crackers and cappuccinos. Hotel Globus is definitely a home away from home. Visit their website and please send them Journeyman’s regards. These are nice, nice people!
It was Sal in Toronto that connected me to the three-star Hotel Goldoni and staying there was a delicious experience as well. This hotel is situated in elegant surroundings in the city’s historical center, a stone’s throw from the Arno, and about two blocks from the famous Ponte Vecchio. Located behind the facade of a prestigious building, you must ring to get in and take the small lift to the second floor reception area.
My single bedroom with shower was small but very comfortable and boasted all the usual amenities. Decoration throughout is traditionally European with dark woods and damasks in soft shades of blues and deep reds. The breakfast room with marble floor, wine and gold decor and swag curtains is elegant without a trace of stuffiness. I learned from the hotel brochure that “..during his tour of Italy in 1770, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an honored guest of the hotel.” I wonder if he enjoyed his carrot and apple breakfast yogurts as much as I did?
Service throughout was excellent and offered with a smile. Hotel Goldoni sits on a wonderful street (Borgo Ognissanti, 8) filled with bookstores, antique shops and restaurants that will delight you for hours. Highly recommended! Phone: +39 055 284080
A great little lunch spot
It was the young woman at the travel agency that directed me to Rose’s up the street for lunch. “It’s a local favorite — especially for women,” she said. Named after the owner’s grandmother, this is the perfect little spot to enjoy when you’ve had one too many pieces of pizza on the run. Their menu runs the gamut from a long list of salads and omelets (perfect with a glass of wine) to enchiladas, burgers and a myriad of stuffed pitas. Strictly veggie? Rose’s served up a huge plate of grilled vegetables and fresh mozzarella accompanied by a bottomless basket of warm brown breads. Desserts like strudel with honey, fresh fruit salad and home-made muffins were tasty and not stuffed with extra calories. Try to arrive before 12:30 and you should find a spot. Once the shops close for lunch it will be a bit harder to be seated (Via delle Parione).
Fabulous leather gloves
When in Florence where leather fashion abounds, it helps to get a referral if you plan on doing any buying. It was American JW reader, Nancy who met me for dinner one evening and showed off her latest Italian purchase — funky, butter-soft black gloves with different color leather between each finger. What fun they were and very nicely made. The next day I, too, made my way to Roberta’s, a tiny leather shop located on Borgo S. Jacapo 78r (a tiny street that runs parallel to the Arno between Ponte Vecchio and Ponte S. Trinita ) and owned by a sister-brother team. Their merchandise is impressive and prices were far better than those in the “tourist” part of town. Pick from unlined or lined (silk or cashmere) gloves in every colour of the rainbow. I bought the gifts for the important people in my life at Roberta’s. They loved them and I stayed well within my budget.
Fabulous leather jacket
Now, I fancied a leather jacket to go with my gloves and it wasn’t until the end of the week that I found what I wanted. Journeywoman came upon Maria Vittoria (Via Porta Rossa, 76) quite by accident and what a pleasant one that turned out to be. Popping into the shop, I found three American women travellers having the time of their lives trying on different styles and offering opinions on what looked best on whom. I joined in the fun and before you knew it we were all lining up at the cash with our new leather jackets. Only later did I find out that the folks at Maria Vittoria have been in the leather design business for 25 years, they have an excellent reputation and provide fine, stylish merchandise to such “biggies” as New York’s 5th Avenue department stores. E-mail: email@example.com. This one is worth a stop!
Discount Italian shoes
With all the spending I’d just completed, I was delighted with a dollar-saving opportunity I received from Michelle Wright. Michelle picked me up at my hotel and we went for a long walk stopping in at some of her favorite places along the way. That’s where we came upon Otisopse Calzature e Pelleterie — a discount shoe store offering Italian design at rock-bottom prices (Via della Scala, 36r). True, the styles were not the absolute up-to-the-minute creations found right downtown, but I purchased a pair of leather boots (US$35) that are not only well-made and presentable but extremely comfortable as well. It was great fun poking through boxes and trying on the many different styles. I’ll definitely go back again next time Florence is on my itinerary.
Bless our JW Network of Classified Advertisers for this suggestion. It was Karen Herbst of The International Kitchen that arranged for my Tuscan cooking class with Silvia Maccari (right in her Florence home). Cooking is not one of my strong points but because of Silvia, who enjoys sharing her love of life, good food, expertise and meeting people, this was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Florence.
Our day started with a tour of San Lorenzo Market — my teacher greeting her favorite merchants and choosing only the freshest ingredients to be used for our class. Then on to her kitchen where Silvia handed me an apron and we began our hands-on cooking class. While preparing our five-course meal, I learned simple cooking techniques and shared lots of interesting girl talk and travellers’ tales.
It was a lovely sunny morning — Silvia kept the doors to the small balcony off her kitchen open — when the recipe required it, she stepped out to snip fresh basil growing in outdoor clay pots. Our class menu included: pie with cheese, onions & olives, risotto with shrimps & vegetables, stuffed veal chops, tomatoes with porchini mushrooms & leek stuffing, as well as biscotti and vin santo to close the meal. Julia Child once said that the sign of a good cook is that she can have all dishes ready at just about the same time. Silvia was right on with everything including the risotto which only has a five-minute window for perfect consistency.
Now my teacher morphed from a Tuscan chef to a fine Italian host. Her dining room table was beautifully set with simple white porcelain dishes and red napkins on a vibrant orange-red Indian cover. A pot of yellow flowers sat in the center along with three bottles of wine — white, red, and dessert.
Silvia, who speaks excellent English, learned to cook from her Florentine grandmother who passed on a wealth of family recipes. I am grateful to both of these women for the gorgeous meal I enjoyed. Once the main course was on the table, Silvia joined me. This was no ordinary meal and no ordinary classroom. It was a true immersion into the Italian culture. I was welcomed into another woman’s kitchen where she shared her expertise and her company. While other travel experiences may fade, I know that this one will not. Bravo Silvia and thanks, again, to The International Kitchen for making this adventure possible. For further information call 1.800.945.8606 or visit: www.theinternationalkitchen.com.
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